Can The Gig-Economy Fix The Manufacturing Skills Gap?

It’s clear that in order to tackle the impending skills gap, manufacturers are going to need to jump on board with the gig economy.

Remember when you had to line up rides to the airport the day before? Or have to ask all of your friends to help you move? That was the worst.

Luckily the Gig-Economy movement has arrived. Need a ride? Take an Uber. Need help moving, or some errands done around the house? Hire someone on TaskRabbit. Need someone to redo your website? Find a developer on Upwork.

These platforms saw a problem and built a virtual community to solve it. They work because they use technology to efficiently match customers with a lack of time or resources (demand), to people that have extra time or resources (supply).

Well in case you haven’t noticed, we have a major lack of resources in the manufacturing industry. Baby boomers are retiring, factories are getting technology upgrades, the jobs are becoming more sophisticated, and there’s no specialized talent in site. Manufacturers are running leaner than ever and God-knows that Staffing Agencies aren’t going to solve this problem.

In theory it should be an industry tailor-made for an “On-Demand/Gig-Economy type platform. But this industry is NOT like the other ones. Handshake deals, phone calls and personal references rule, and new solutions are looked at with a suspicious eye. But can we make a platform where finding resources is so convenient that it will be accepted by the manufacturing industry? As a born and bred entrepreneur, I found myself asking this same question.

Right now, the manufacturing industry is facing a big problem. Over the next 10 years, it’s estimated that 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will go unfilled. This is what is referred to as the “manufacturing skills gap.”

Skilled industrial workers are set to retire, and Millennials are pursuing careers in other industries other than manufacturing.

Businesses are now having to figure out ways to balance the knowledge and experience of the baby boomers, while also attracting those who are prepared to become tomorrow’s workforce. But will it be enough?

There is no easy solution to this problem. Even companies like GE are launching humorous TV campaigns targeted to Millennials to sell them on the industry.

So, how can the Gig-Economy help fill in the labor gaps?

Well, turns out that manufacturing is not the only industry facing this problem. The Accenture Strategy 2016 US College Graduate Employment Study found that today’s graduates “are wary of large companies”. Only one in seven graduates want to work for a large company in the traditional 9 to 5 sense.

Today’s graduates are pursuing other fields. They don’t necessarily want or need the stability of a full-time job. They are motivated by an ever-changing kind of work experience. Millennials who have grown up with technology and social media often find the gig economy appealing because it gives them a degree of control and flexibility not often found in the traditional 9 to 5.

It’s clear that in order to tackle the impending skills gap, manufacturers are going to need to jump on board with the gig economy. They’re just aren’t enough Millennials pursuing a full-time career in this industry. And the ones that are, don’t want to be pigeon-holed into a 9-5 experience.

Maybe the future of your workforce isn’t a full-time team that works 9 to 5 Monday thru Friday. Just maybe you will have a small team to tend to your core operations, and then have a button on your phone that summons on-demand, skilled talent for projects that pop up here and there in your facility.

Seem a little crazy? Yeah maybe, but then again so did pushing a button and having a random person pick you up in their car.

Patrick O’Rahilly is CEO of

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